By Chief Petty Officer Aracely J. Sanchez.
Even as young as seven years old, I still remember playing with my childhood friends in the heart of East Los Angeles, talking about the type of future we would have once we were grown-ups. They talked about meeting a handsome young man and having children in a nice home of their dreams upon graduating high school. In my culture, that outcome was common throughout the years. As enchanting as that idea sounded, that was not the life I wanted just yet. I had other things to explore and achieve.
As a first generation Mexican-American and second oldest of six children, my parents emphasized the significance of education, diligence, and hard work so that I could be an example for my siblings. I always had big dreams and never took anything for granted. My parents worked hard to support us, and we showed our gratitude through working hard.
My oldest brother Christian was a tremendous influence in my decision-making process. His constant support and daily “talks” inspired me to excel and want more. He would often tell me, ‘never let our parents’ sacrifice of migrating to this country go to waste’, and I took that to heart. Adversity mixed with unforgettable childhood experiences shaped my determination and molded the woman I am today. In 1994, we moved from East L.A. to Tualatin, Oregon. This was the springboard that I needed in my life. This is where I began to fly.
I graduated from Tualatin High School in 1999 at the age of 17. My parents supported my decision to join the U.S. Navy. I was awarded a three-month all-expenses-paid vacation to Great Lakes, IL. to attend boot camp. My next “vacation destination”? Meridian, MS, in the middle of nowhere. Here I trained to be a Disbursing Clerk. My role was to handle payroll.
After months of training, I finally reported to my first duty station: USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71), which at the time was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2007, while stationed in Norfolk, VA, I met my other half, my husband “cacheton”, Fernando Sanchez, who was also serving in the Navy. Between he and I, we have completed nine deployments away from our family. We have three amazingly beautiful daughters: Aryana, Leyla, and Camila who have endured countless hours, days, and months of separation; which Fernando and I will never be able to convey our appreciation enough. While we sacrifice for this amazing country, in all reality, military children are the real heroes!
When I was pinned to the rank of a Chief Petty Officer in 2014, a Sailor said to me, “To know a Latina being selected as a Chief is rare, and to meet one is admirable.” Those words stuck with me and humbled me into realizing that being a role model is a 24 hour a day job.
In early 2016, I was selected as the first enlisted female to serve on a U.S. Navy Minesweeper. I’m currently forward deployed on USS Gladiator (MCM 11), based out of Manama, Bahrain, in the Middle East. Serving this great nation in the greatest Navy in the world is an honor. Being a Latina, a woman and blazing a trail for all women in uniform is a humbling task that I fully accept. “I have but one life to live, and I choose to live it fully, without regrets”. HOOYAH!!!
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